The Los Altos-based Young Men’s Service League Rancho Chapter held its annual Ultimate Gift Event Nov. 4, inspired by the book of the same name by Jim Stovall, which shows how a young man who inherits a large sum of money learns the importance of giving.
You would think that many organizations would jump at the chance to be the recipient of our YMSL Ultimate Gift project. We were surprised, however, at how difficult it was to find an organization that could benefit from the hundreds of hours and donations our members provide. We ultimately found Dress for Success San Jose, which strives to empower women economically by providing support and interview-appropriate attire. The opportunity to make such a positive impact in the lives of other women was an inspiring mission.
We were initially concerned that our young men may not fully understand or embrace the needs of working mothers. The beauty of the YMSL organization, however, is that we have a chance to see our sons in ways that often surprise us with their generous spirit and willingness to step forward. One of our seniors, Max, posted a notice on Nextdoor asking for donations of work-appropriate clothing and accessories for women and received many positive responses. He offered to pick up any donations or provide a treat – homemade chocolate chip cookies – if anyone wanted to bring donations to his home on Halloween evening. Over the course of a week, Max and his mom, Jennifer, picked up several bags of clothing from people who had seen Max’s Nextdoor post. And, though no one came to their door on Halloween night, they did exchange cookies for bags of donations with a few of their neighbors.
Braden and his mom, Jenny, reached out to family, friends and Jenny’s book club. People were happy to donate quality items that no longer fit and happy that they would go to a good cause. They gathered 10 bags of clothing, shoes, jewelry and handbags for the cause.
When Niles and his mom, Kammy, reached out to friends and neighbors, they received several quick responses because people thought it was a really good cause. Two of the friends even passed on the request to their friends. Kammy also got the opportunity to reconnect with a few friends she had not seen for a while.
JT took the instructions to determine whether clothing was interview appropriate to heart. While sorting clothes with his mom, Elaine, he would look at some of them, pause, then hold them up in front of himself and say, “Do you think this is interview appropriate?” or “What is this?” in his most sarcastic and questioning voice. When his mom explained to him the difference between a top and a blouse, he asked, “Why don’t they just call them all tops?” Elaine said it was a fun activity to do together; they laughed so much while doing something that was helping others.
On the day of the event, we rented a large truck to hold all of our donations. When my son, Charlie, realized that I was anxious about driving such a large truck, he made me laugh and calmed my fears by pretending we were in a scene from “Smokey and the Bandit” as we headed toward Montclaire Elementary School in Los Altos.
As we pulled up to the front of the school, there were many boys and moms in their YMSL uniforms busy sorting and packing donated items. Some boys were folding scarves (for the first time in their lives!), while others helped organize skirts and suits. It was fun to watch the boys reviewing an item to determine whether it was something their moms could wear to an interview.
As a result of these shrewd young men, Goodwill also benefited from many donations that day.
The items were neatly sorted, folded and packed into boxes, which were then carefully stacked and loaded into a large truck for delivery the following day. By the end of the day, we had more than 100 boxes of clothing, shoes, purses and accessories to donate to Dress for Success San Jose. We were thrilled by the generosity of our community and the ability to come together for such a worthy cause.
YMSL was founded in Plano, Texas, in 2001. The organization now boasts chapters in eight states, with many more due to open in the coming year. YMSL focuses on education, leadership and philanthropy. As a boost, the mom-and-son teams spend valuable hours working alongside each other at a time when maintaining a strong teen-parent relationship can be a struggle.
For more information on the YMSL Rancho Chapter, visit ymslrancho.chapterweb.net.
Julie Crane is a member of YMSL’s Ultimate Gift Committee.